Thinking for Oneself: Piece II



The man who thinks for himself learns the authorities for his opinions
only later on, when they serve merely to strengthen both them and
himself; while the book-philosopher starts from the authorities and
other people’s opinions, therefrom constructing a whole for himself; so
that he resembles an automaton, whose composition we do not understand.
The other man, the man who thinks for himself, on the other hand, is
like a living man as made by nature. His mind is impregnated from
without, which then bears and brings forth its child. Truth that has
been merely learned adheres to us like an artificial limb, a false
tooth, a waxen nose, or at best like one made out of another’s flesh;
truth which is acquired by thinking for oneself is like a natural
member: it alone really belongs to us. Here we touch upon the difference
between the thinking man and the mere man of learning. Therefore the
intellectual acquirements of the man who thinks for himself are like a
fine painting that stands out full of life, that has its light and shade
correct, the tone sustained, and perfect harmony of colour. The
intellectual attainments of the merely learned man, on the contrary,
resemble a big palette covered with every colour, at most systematically
arranged, but without harmony, relation, and meaning.


Mere experience can as little as reading take the place of thought. Mere
empiricism bears the same relation to thinking as eating to digestion
and assimilation. When experience boasts that it alone, by its
discoveries, has advanced human knowledge, it is as though the mouth
boasted that it was its work alone to maintain the body.

The works of all really capable minds are distinguished from all other
works by a character of decision and definiteness, and, in consequence,
of lucidity and clearness. This is because minds like these know
definitely and clearly what they wish to express–whether it be in
prose, in verse, or in music. Other minds are wanting in this decision
and clearness, and therefore may be instantly recognised.

The characteristic sign of a mind of the highest standard is the
directness of its judgment. Everything it utters is the result of
thinking for itself; this is shown everywhere in the way it gives
expression to its thoughts. Therefore it is, like a prince, an imperial
director in the realm of intellect. All other minds are mere delegates,
as may be seen by their style, which has no stamp of its own.

Hence every true thinker for himself is so far like a monarch; he is
absolute, and recognises nobody above him. His judgments, like the
decrees of a monarch, spring from his own sovereign power and proceed
directly from himself. He takes as little notice of authority as a
monarch does of a command; nothing is valid unless he has himself
authorised it. On the other hand, those of vulgar minds, who are swayed
by all kinds of current opinions, authorities, and prejudices, are like
the people which in silence obey the law and commands.

In the realm of reality, however fair, happy, and pleasant it may prove
to be, we always move controlled by the law of gravity, which we must be
unceasingly overcoming. While in the realm of thought we are disembodied
spirits, uncontrolled by the law of gravity and free from penury.

This is why there is no happiness on earth like that which at the
propitious moment a fine and fruitful mind finds in itself.


…More to Come in Piece III

Thinking For Oneself: Piece I


The largest library in disorder is not so useful as a smaller but
orderly one; in the same way the greatest amount of knowledge, if it has
not been worked out in one’s own mind, is of less value than a much
smaller amount that has been fully considered. For it is only when a man
combines what he knows from all sides, and compares one truth with
another, that he completely realizes his own knowledge and gets it into
his power. A man can only think over what he knows, therefore he should
learn something; but a man only knows what he has pondered.

A man can apply himself of his own free will to reading and learning,
while he cannot to thinking. Thinking must be kindled like a fire by a
draught and sustained by some kind of interest in the subject. This
interest may be either of a purely objective nature or it may be merely
subjective. The latter exists in matters concerning us personally, but
objective interest is only to be found in heads that think by nature,
and to whom thinking is as natural as breathing; but they are very rare.
This is why there is so little of it in most men of learning.

The difference between the effect that thinking for oneself and that
reading has on the mind is incredibly great; hence it is continually
developing that original difference in minds which induces one man to
think and another to read. Reading forces thoughts upon the mind which
are as foreign and heterogeneous to the bent and mood in which it may be
for the moment, as the seal is to the wax on which it stamps its
imprint. The mind thus suffers total compulsion from without; it has
first this and first that to think about, for which it has at the time
neither instinct nor liking.

On the other hand, when a man thinks for himself he follows his own
impulse, which either his external surroundings or some kind of
recollection has determined at the moment. His visible surroundings do
not leave upon his mind _one_ single definite thought as reading does,
but merely supply him with material and occasion to think over what is
in keeping with his nature and present mood. This is why _much_ reading
robs the mind of all elasticity; it is like keeping a spring under a
continuous, heavy weight. If a man does not want to think, the safest
plan is to take up a book directly he has a spare moment.

This practice accounts for the fact that learning makes most men more
stupid and foolish than they are by nature, and prevents their writings
from being a success; they remain, as Pope has said,

“For ever reading, never to be read.”


Reading is merely a substitute for one’s own thoughts. A man allows his
thoughts to be put into leading-strings.

Further, many books serve only to show how many wrong paths there are,
and how widely a man may stray if he allows himself to be led by them.
But he who is guided by his genius, that is to say, he who thinks for
himself, who thinks voluntarily and rightly, possesses the compass
wherewith to find the right course. A man, therefore, should only read
when the source of his own thoughts stagnates; which is often the case
with the best of minds.

It is sin against the Holy Spirit to frighten away one’s own original
thoughts by taking up a book. It is the same as a man flying from Nature
to look at a museum of dried plants, or to study a beautiful landscape
in copperplate. A man at times arrives at a truth or an idea after
spending much time in thinking it out for himself, linking together his
various thoughts, when he might have found the same thing in a book; it
is a hundred times more valuable if he has acquired it by thinking it
out for himself. For it is only by his thinking it out for himself that
it enters as an integral part, as a living member into the whole system
of his thought, and stands in complete and firm relation with it; that
it is fundamentally understood with all its consequences, and carries
the colour, the shade, the impress of his own way of thinking; and comes
at the very moment, just as the necessity for it is felt, and stands
fast and cannot be forgotten. This is the perfect application, nay,
interpretation of Goethe’s

“Was du ererbt von deinen Vaetern hast
Erwirb es um es zu besitzen.”


…More to come in Piece II



Mountains held an important place in almost every ancient culture. If a society lived near any sort of alpine terrain, it was inevitably woven into the culture’s myths and legends. More often than not, it was seen as the realm of the gods. Perhaps the most recognizable example in Western culture is Mount Olympus as the home of the Ancient Greek pantheon. Mount Sinai, in all Abrahamic religions, is the place where some of the most important teachings of God were handed down. Mount Fuji in Japan is home to countless Shinto temples all long its base. Mount Kailash and Mount Meru both play an important part in many Hindu myths. Native peoples such as the Taranki in New Zealand, the Incas in Peru, and the Wintu in California centered their religious life in nearby mountains.

It’s plain to see why so many cultures were inspired by the grandeur of…

View original post 902 more words

If you’re going to pontificate about the history of science then at least get your facts right!

The Renaissance Mathematicus

Recently, my attention was drawn to an article by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, on The Week website, telling the world what the real meaning of ‘science’ is (h/t Peter Broks @peterbroks). According to Mr Gobry science is the process through which we derive reliable predictive rules through controlled experimentation [his emphasis]. This definition is of course totally inadequate but I’m not going to try and correct it in what follows; I gave up trying to find a simple all encompassing definition of science, a hopeless endeavour, a long time ago. However Mr Gobry takes us on a whirlwind tour of the history of science that is to say the least bizarre not to mention horribly inaccurate and in almost all of its details false. It is this part of his article that I’m going to look at here. He writes:

A little history: The first proto-scientist was the Greek intellectual…

View original post 1,119 more words

Prisoners of Self-Made Labyrinths

You are prisoners of self-made labyrinths!

You — corpses in the coffins clamped with nails!

You — fanatics, who throw bombs

Into the Parlaments, stock exchanges, and palaces,

–And you imagine that you can destroy with dynamite

All that which sprouts from within

–From your own self with irrepressible force!

I call you to rebel against

The laws of your habitual nature and your mind:

To jump out of humanity

–To final madness

–The Transformation of your own self.


Максимилиа́н Воло́шин

Image:  Илья́ Ре́пин


Perception and Love


We live in era, when everything is displaced in the world, there are no foundations, no feeling of gravity, we don’t know where is up and where is down. Europe is torn down by war, Russia is torn down by Revolution. The time has come, when one, with closed eyes like a blind man, has to get in touch with those inclinations and those points of support within himself which had slipped away in the external world. There exist two powers within the creative will of man: the force of perception and that of love.Perception is a negative force. When human mind is rising up the steps of creation of heavenly hierarchies, the spirits that sustain the world, in reverse order — this phenomenon is rational perception. Rational perception — is creativity, turned around in the reverse order. Comprehension is a negative imprint of the creation.All positive creative forces of a man are only in Love. By Love he is taking something new into the world, and through love he is participating in the work of the Hierarchies by becoming a part of one. The task of a man in the world can be defined this way: man is submerged into the universe of wisdom in which all is interconnected by architecture of reason. His task is to leave after himself the universe of love.



Максимилиа́н Воло́шин

Alone among unfriendly hordes I don’t take sides, I favour nobody. I am a voice of springs inside me

I’ve had delusions, no doubt
Temptations, weaknesses at times.
Despite all that, whenever I
Faded in sorrow and delight,
My light has never gone out.


Максимилиа́н Воло́шин

The aim of scientific work is truth. While we internally recognise something as true, we judge, and while we utter judgements, we assert.

Equality challenges our capacity to think, because it gives rise to questions that
are not quite easy to answer. Is it a relation? a relation
between objects? or between names or signs for objects?
I had assumed the latter in my Begriffsschrift. The reasons that seem to favour it are the following:
a=a and a=b are obviously sentences of different cognitive value: a=a holds a priori, and, following Kant, should be called analytic, while sentences of the form a=b often contain valuable extensions of our knowledge and cannot always be justified a priori. The discovery that a new sun does not rise every morning but always the same one has probably been one of the most consequential discoveries in astronomy. Even now we cannot always take for granted that we will recognize a small planet or comet. Now, if we wanted to view equality as a relation between that which the names “a” and “b” mean, 3 then it would seem that a=b could not be different from a=a, in case
a=b is true. It would express a relation of a thing to itself, namely such a relation in which each thing stands to itself, but none stands to another. What one wants to say by a=b seems to be that the signs or…
To continue:

From Approaches to How they Behave



What does it matter if the words
I choose, in the order I choose them in,
Go out into a silence I know
Nothing about, there to be let
In and entertained and charmed
Out of their master’s orders?  And yet
I would like to see where they go
And how without me they behave.


Speaking is difficult and one tries
To be exact and yet not to
Exact the prime intention to death.
On the other hand the appearance of things
Must not be made to mean another
Thing.  It is a kind of triumph
To see them and to put them down
As what they are.  The inadequacy
Of the living, animal language drives
Us all to metaphor and an attempt
To organize the spaces we think
We have made occur between the words.


The bad word and the bad word and
The word which glamours me with some
Quick face it pulls to make me let
It leave me to go across
In roughly your direction, hates
To go out maybe so completely
On another silence not its own.


Before I know it they are out
Afloat in the head which freezes them.
Then I suppose I take the best
Away and leave the others arranged
Like floating bergs to sink a convoy.


One word says to its mate O
I do not think we go together
Are we doing any good here
Why do we find ourselves put down?
The mate pleased to be spoken to
Looks up from the line below
And says well that doubtful god
Who has us here is far from sure
How we on our own tickle the chin
Of the prince or the dame that lets us in.


The dark companion is a star
Very present like a dark poem
Far and unreadable just out
At the edge of this poem floating.
It is not more or less a dark
Companion poem to the poem.
W. S. Graham